A tribute to and a lament for Marshall McLuhan.  Five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, I present one of McLuhan’s observations and talk about its relevance today.  300 ideas. 300 days.  300 posts.

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Marshall McLuhan (August, 1967, age 56).  We’re in the money!

Today I signed a deal with Eugene Schwartz.  The Marshall McLuhan Dew-Line Newsletter is destined to make McLuhan Inc. a tidy sum of money.  The newsletter according to our ad copy will be “a startling, shocking Early Warning System for our era of instant change!”  Each month the newsletter will deliver “the most vital developments of our day – filled with both immense danger and previously undreamed-of potential.”  What developments?  “The Teen-age drop out,”  “The Ghetto Rebellion,” “The super-urbs” replacing our cities.  Here are some of the pressing questions of the day the newsletter will answer.  “Why do Negro youngsters in Watts say ‘Why should I interrupt my education to go to school?  Why did IBM spend thousands of dollars with Dr. McLuhan to devise a sensory profile of their executives?  Why have advertising agencies become the most effective educational institutions in our society?”  I can’t wait to hear my answers.

Me (August, 2010, age 58). They’re in something else!

The first edition of the monthly newsletter was mailed to roughly 4,000 subscribers in July 1968 and continued until sometime in 1970.  The subscribers paid $50 a year for the newsletter and McLuhan was promised a minimum of $10,000 in the first year and $20,000 in the second, and his son Eric as editor of the newsletter was promised $15,000 a year and a top-floor office on Madison Avenue. [For more]

The newsletter had three problems. (See Marchand’s biography of McLuhan)

  1. Much of the content was vintage McLuhan, but it did not differ very much from what Mcluhan was saying elsewhere for free.
  2. The newsletter’s advice was general rather than specific and topical.
  3. The newsletter “did nothing but intensify suspicions that McLuhan was a charlatan and a man out to exploit his reputation as a media wizard for every penny he could get.” (p. 228.)

McLuhan made no money out of the venture.  It is hard not to be disappointed in McLuhan.  The harsh part of me says:  The moral is, if you’re going to sell out get the money up front.  The sensitive part of me says:  The moral is, if you’re famous people will try to take advantage of you.

Cordially, Marshall and Me

Reading

Philip Marchand, Marshall McLuhan:  The Medium and the Messenger, 1989, pp. 209, 210, 227-229.

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Michael Hinton Wednesday, August 11th, 2010
Permalink 1950s and 60s, Communication, Vol. 1 No Comments

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